BACKGROUND: Chronic inflammatory diseases are linked to an increased risk of stroke events. The white blood cell (WBC) count is a common marker of the inflammatory response. However, it is unclear whether the WBC count, its subpopulations and their dynamic changes are related to the risk of fatal stroke in relatively healthy elderly population.
METHODS: In total, 27,811 participants without a stroke history at baseline were included and followed up for a mean of 11.5 (standard deviation = 2.3) years. After review of available records, 503 stroke deaths (ischaemic 227, haemorrhagic 172 and unclassified 104) were recorded. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to assess the associations between the WBC count, its subpopulations and their dynamic changes (two-phase examination from baseline to the 1st follow-up) and the risk of fatal all stroke, fatal ischaemic stroke and fatal haemorrhagic stroke.
RESULTS: (i) Regarding the WBC count in relation to the risk of fatal stroke, restricted cubic splines showed an atypically U-curved association between the WBC count and the risk of fatal all stroke occurrence. Compared with those in the lowest WBC count quartile (< 5.3*10^9/L), the participants with the highest WBC count (> 7.2*10^9/L) had a 53 and 67% increased risk for fatal all stroke (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] = 1.53, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.16-2.02, P = 0.003) and fatal haemorrhagic stroke (aHR = 1.67, 95% CI 1.10-2.67, P = 0.03), respectively; compared with those in the lowest quartile (< 3.0*10^9/L), the participants with the highest NEUT count (> 4.5*10^9/L) had a 45 and 65% increased risk for fatal all stroke (aHR = 1.45, 95% CI 1.10-1.89, P = 0.008) and fatal ischaemic stroke (aHR = 1.65, 95%CI 1.10-2.47 P = 0.02), respectively. With the additional adjustment for C-reactive protein, the same results as those for all stroke and ischaemic stroke, but not haemorrhagic stroke, were obtained for the WBC count (4 ~ 10*10^9/L) and the NEUT count (the NEUT counts in the top 1% and bottom 1% at baseline were excluded). (ii) Regarding dynamic changes in the WBC count in relation to the risk of fatal stroke, compared with the stable group (- 25% ~ 25%, dynamic changes from two phases of examination (baseline, from September 1st, 2003 to February 28th, 2008; 1st follow-up, from March 31st 2008 to December 31st 2012)), the groups with a 25% increase in the WBC count and NEUT count respectively had a 60% (aHR = 1.60, 95% CI 1.07-2.40, P = 0.02) and 45% (aHR = 1.45, 95% CI1.02-2.05, P = 0.04) increased risk of fatal all stroke occurrence.
CONCLUSIONS: The WBC count, especially the NEUT count, was associated with an increased risk of fatal all stroke occurrence. Longitudinal changes in the WBC count and NEUT count increase in excess of 25% were also associated with an increased risk of fatal all stroke occurrence in the elderly population.
Bibliographical note© 2021. The Author(s).
- Biological Specimen Banks
- Brain Ischemia
- Cohort Studies
- Leukocyte Count